Losing Strategies in Relationships

Inspired by Terrance (Terry) Real’s book “The New Rules of Marriage”, we’d like to delve deeper into the subject of relationships. This is Part One in our series of blog posts on this complex topic.

In his book, Terry points out that oftentimes, people utilize “losing strategies” to get their needs met without realizing that their behaviour has the opposite effect.  Not only will these commonly used strategies fail at getting you what you want, they will damage your relationship by attacking the important pillars of a relationship: respect, dignity and compassion.
Here are some of those losing strategies:1) needing to be right – the idea that one person in the relationship needs to be right over the other,
2) controlling your partner – if you are in control or think you are,  be prepared for payback,
3) unbridled self expression – exploding in anger or saying mean things that you can’t take back,
4) retaliation – you hurt me so I get to hurt you back,
5) withdrawal – pulling back, shutting yourself down,  shutting the other out and/or not confronting the issue,
6) being contemptuous and self-righteous –this puts down the other person while trying to prove you’re ‘right’,
7) punishing – in a number of ways such as angry outbursts or withdrawing from conversations,
8) complaining –  while it looks like the complainer is a victim, complaining is an indirect attack to show how the other is failing us. Complaining never contributes to the creation of a solution.

While Terry focuses on couple relationships, remember that these concepts apply to all types of relationships; spouse, child, friend, family member, co-worker etc.

Have you ever asked yourself why people keep using the same losing combination of ineffective strategies and become more and more discouraged with the direction the relationship is taking? In most cases, we are not equipped with relationship building skills or with the ability to recognize how we contribute to the problem. In my experience, people justify the losing strategy they default to. What they lose track of is that they themselves are creating more injury to the relationship. Two wrongs don’t make a right.

If you want to make a drastic difference in your relationship, adopting a strategy of respect should be at the top of your list. Decide that no matter what, you will not drop below the line of respectful behaviour toward another human being. Be conscious of your behaviour and stop yourself before you release an unbridled expression of anger, become contemptuous, try to manipulate and control, or withdraw. Beware of the silent aggressors too. There are a lot of other behaviours more subtle than ‘freaking out’ that can be equally as damaging.

Maintaining respect and dignity in your relationship will move it toward empowerment. By shifting your mindset from protecting yourself to protecting the relationship, you will start shifting your responses and reactions.

Of course as partners we will do things that are inappropriate and these behaviours should be addressed. No one is perfect. It is how we address them that can make the difference. The objective should be to maintain the dignity of every individual and the dignity of the relationship. When we’re hurt we can lose track of that. Repairing an injury in a relationship implies that people will all come out feeling better and stronger instead of shifting the hurt from one person to the other.

A therapist trained in relational / life therapy would be able to work with couples with that frame of reference. Manon is training with Terrence Real.
To learn more about Terrence Real’s perspectives on the New Rules of Marriage, visit his website.

This blog Inspired by: The New Rules of Marriage by Terrence Real
Watch Youtube interview here.